YATR’s Victoria Rowell and Kristoff St. John Pay It Forward in UPtv’s A BABY FOR CHRISTMAS
In 2013, when UPtv aired Marry Me for Christmas, the network had no idea what it had done. Ratings for the TV movie soared, delivering the highest ratings in the network’s history. The producers (Uptv and Swirl Films) followed that project with Marry Us for Christmas in 2014 (starring Victoria Rowell and Kristoff St. John) and continued the trilogy with this year’s A Baby for Christmas, again starring Victoria Rowell and Kristoff St. John. When I had the privilege to interview her, Rowell, who shares Executive Producer status for this year’s project with Malinda Williams, revealed to me how it all began, “I was invited to star in the family holiday movie Marry Me for Christmas in 2013, and I was delighted to say yes. We filmed in Atlanta, Georgia. Then, I received a call after a year that told me that the first Christmas movie in this package, Marry Me for Christmas, had delivered the highest ratings in UPtv history. The producers talked about doing a second movie, Marry Us for Christmas, and, at that time, I suggested Kristoff be brought in. After all, we had starred together for 14 years in The Young and the Restless. The producers thought it was a really smart idea. And the ratings for that second movie last year trumped the 2013 ratings. I then became Co-Executive Producer on the third movie, A Baby for Christmas, and obviously wanted Kristoff to join me again.” Kristoff alsn confirmed in a separate conversation with me that he and Rowell’s relationship “has remained solid over the years,” and he expressed his joy at working with her again.
Working for Those in Need
Rowell is passionate about giving back and paying it forward and would like viewers of A Baby for Christmas to get the message from the movie that “children are in need of a home.” She explains, “There are 650,000 children in foster care at some point. Nearly 108,000 children in America are waiting for adoption. Only a small percentage of them finish high school, and only 2% finish a four-year college.”
Rowell herself spent 18 years in foster care. She continues, “I asked myself, ‘how can I give back to my community? How can I help those in tremendous need?’ And it’s not just children. There are people migrating all over the world. There are people in tremendous need right now, those suffering from mental illness, the elderly, people in poverty, people who are homeless.”
Learning the Business
Rowell is fueled in her heartfelt compassion for others by what she has learned from co-stars like Jeanne Cooper and Dick Van Dyke, who she starred with in The Young and the Restless and Diagnosis Murder respectively. She confides, “I learned about the business on the show, and as an African-American woman, I have long talked about the need to participate in minority aspects of show business, which is not readily available to women of color especially. I endeavor all day to bring about change, not only for myself, but for other minorities. When you’re in the environment, even if it may not be popular, you’ve got to at least try to pay it forward.
Upcoming Projects Paying It Forward
Another remarkable way Rowell is paying it forward is through a project she currently has in development as Executive Producer. It’s based on her best-selling book THE WOMEN WHO RAISED ME, published in 2007 by HarperCollins. She teases a bit, “It’s about ordinary, extraordinary women, mentors, and it talks about the importance of arts in school, how children learn through fine arts. It’s an inspirational story about people making a difference in this world.”
Rowell also has at least one other project in development on which she is Executive Producer. Based on her soap opera novel series (SOAP OPERA DIVA and THE YOUNG AND THE RUTHLESS), the story is about “a young black actress who comes to Hollywood from Mississippi. And she struggles; she’s a mother. And she’s away from her family. We see her struggles, but we also get to see the zaniness of a soap opera cast of characters that are in this particular show. The soap opera is owned by a black couple, so there’s a whole new perspective.”
Rowell holds two doctorates in education and is an advocate for education, women’s rights, and civil rights.
She can next be seen in Jupiter Films’ Revival! The Experience, starring Harry Lennix (The Blacklist) and award-winning Gospel singer Mali Music. The film is about the Gospel of John and is set for a 2015 release.
Both Rowell and St. John are multi-award winning actors. Marry Me for Christmas and Marry Us for Christmas can currently be seen on Netflix.
A Baby for Christmas airs on UPtv on December 13 at 7 P.M.